In a Word: The Story Behind Solstice

In Dublin today, the sun will set at 4:08. That is, if you can see the sun. I remember waiting for a bus on Merrion Road in Dublin right before Christmas in 1980. It was 4:00, it was raining, and it was nighttime dark. The following morning, I caught a train at 8:00, again in total darkness. That’s because the sun wouldn’t rise until around 8:40. Nothing like living farther north as winter approaches! Which brings us to the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. Solstice is a great word because its Latin roots explain the planetary event with a touch of poetry: sol means sun and sistere means to stand still, which is exactly what the sun appears to do as it reaches its farthest southward point for the year, usually on December 21st or 22nd. Winter begins in the northern hemisphere and the days get longer. I remember trying to explain this phenomenon to my kids with an orange and a grapefruit. Good thing they had science teachers! Enjoy the solstice and the sight of the sun at dawn as it begins its welcome northward creep.

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